What they’re saying about FOTM 2018

November 6, 2018


News and notes from a 32.8-mile trail race in the woods

Photo by Mario Zuniga
Becky McGraw, who placed second in the women’s standings, either treats her age group award as an Olympic medal or thinks that, like last year’s medals, these are made of chocolate. They are not.

* Endurance for Everyone podcast (starting at 19:00)
* Becky’s race recap blog
Permanent event page – see 2019 notes
* Register for FOTM 2019

LITTLE ORLEANS, Md. — Here’s what finishers of the 2018 version of the Fire on the Mountain 50K and 2-person relay are saying about this year’s event. The comments are lifted from emails between runners and the race director or on social media.

  • “Great time as always. See you next year.”
  • “I am writing to say thanks for the incredible experience yesterday. The course was beautiful and I have a newfound respect for mountains north of us! Plus, I learned an incredible amount about myself – physically and psychologically. Needless to say it was my first, but definitely not my last, 50K.”
  • “Everything today was just fucking perfect.  Thank you so much for an amazing event.  I could ramble on and on. But shorter is better. It was perfect.”
  • “Thanks for a wonderful day. Long drive, but I had a great time.” (Forgot drop bag). “I know.  I should have put a reminder on my steering wheel or something.” (RD loves this idea for all runners).
  • “All I can say is OMG!!! Incredible race- course. Was ummmm challenging to say the least! Thank you for demolishing my fear of heights!!! Haaa (don’t look past the width your feet!!!!) Your volunteers were great – encouraging and helpful! I love my shirt and will wear it with utmost pride!!! As for my 1st place age group cross cut log trophy- it is totally awesome! I love it!!! By far my fastest 50K to date … all I had left after I threw my log on the fire was tears!!! ( I left everything else out there!!!) Thank you again for providing an awesome day on the mountain!!!”
  • “This course is both grueling and fun at the same time. One of the more challenging things I’ve done and definitely the hardest course I’ve raced on.”
  • “Thank you for another amazing day in the Green Ridge State Forest. I enjoyed my time so much a lingered a little longer than some years. 😉 The pre-race camp site, the weather, the fabulous directions (from) the RD, the course, the aid stations, the finishers awards, and the volunteers all combined together for a fabulous day … I can’t wait to get to do it all again!”

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
Jamie and Thomas Gera, of Keyser, show off their custom 2-person relay medal.

Robert’s heart shows

Robert Hardt might know Green Ridge State Forest better than anyone else in the field over the event’s eight years. After all, he lives in nearby Paw Paw, W.Va., and has helped mark the course, take down ribbons, scout out potential new paths and more.

So it has been with a heavy — well, heart — that in each of Hardt’s last two attempts at completing the Fire on the Mountain 50K, he has had those awful three letters beside his name: DNF.

As the course changed to an out-and-back run in 2016, Hardt, now 49, was the only runner to not finish among an intimate field of 24 starters. He dropped out at the midway point, mile 16.4, at Log Roll Overlook after spending 5 hours and 3 minutes on his feet. He hung his head and humbly tried to shake off the disappointment after getting a ride back to the finish line in volunteer Ray Hunt’s Dodge Journey.

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
Runners hit the start of the Long Pond (red) Trail at mile 1.2.

He also dropped in 2014.

In 2013, Hardt completed what was then a point-to-point course in 8:43:55.6, good for 103rd among 103 official finishers. In 2012, He clocked an 8:37:10.8, good for 74th out of 79 finishers.

This year, he again pushed the limits of the 10-hour cutoff.

“Thirty-five minutes to go,” the race director called out at the finish line.

“Twenty minutes … 15 minutes …”

Shortly after that last announcement, though, Hardt was able to be seen through the lightly wooded tree line as he crested the hill on Oldtown Orleans Road and made the final turn into the equestrian field. At that point, he was less than 100 meters from the finish line. He bent down to scoop up a log to complete the ceremonial tossing of the wood into the fire.

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
The adventure begins.

9:50:35 and, had it not been for some leeway given to Joe Crane (9:54:50), who veered way off course and approached the finish line from the wrong direction, Hardt once again would have been last in the standings.

But as he caught his breath and noticed his surroundings, Hardt was nearly overcome with joy.

“I feel like I’m gonna cry,” he said.

Baby come back!

Joshua Ferguson sure knows how to please his fans.

Ferguson, reached the midway point of the race in 2 hours and 50 minutes, good for sixth place. He grabbed some food, checked in with aid station captain Jen Rolston, and looked around.

Photo by Kevin Spradlin

Asking what he was waiting for, Orr replied, “if you see a woman with a blonde-haired baby, tell them I said I’m sorry I missed them.”

And just as he felt he could wait no more, he started to head towards Kirk Road and for the return trip on the Big Run/Deep Run Trail. He couldn’t help but offer one last look — and there they were. Holding the baby, Ferguson’s wife came running down Green Ridge Road. Ferguson did a 180 and deliberately left the course by a few dozen feet.

Kisses and baby gibberish ensued. Smiles and farewells, then Ferguson was off to conquer the second half of the course — which he did, in 3:44:59, sufficient to earn a 6:34:59 time and 11th place.

Squad of volunteers

A special “thank you” to each and every volunteer. Here’s a list of (most of) them: Allison, Chelsea and Julie (Aid Station 1); April and Noah (Aid Station 2); Jen, Jamey (sweeper) and Ray (Aid Station 4), Noah (finish line), Stephanie (artwork for medals), Dylan and Dick (handed out wood), Mitch and Michelle (course markers a week prior), and others who weren’t on any list but played a critical part in making this year’s event a success.



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